Speech for International Women's Day, Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women, E&OE
The Coordinator Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC), Ms Shamima Ali, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Ni Sa Bula and Namaste.
I am pleased to be here at the FWCC to launch the Violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste Report. I am particularly pleased to be here on International Women's Day, which is a day to reflect on how far women around the world have come, and what further we can do.
My job as Australia's Global Ambassador is to advocate and advance the position of women and girls across the globe but especially in the Asia-Pacific. It is a cause to which the Australian Government is deeply committed.
The FWCC is one of Australia's key partners in our efforts to address violence against women in the region, and women's rights in general. Thanks in part to the FWCC's efforts, there is now a growing recognition in Fiji and the broader Pacific community that violence against women is not acceptable and an ongoing discussion about how to eliminate it.
The Violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste Report will play an important role in this discussion.
The report was prepared by the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), led by Mary Ellsberg, with involvement from many around the region and funding from the Australian Government in particular I want to mention Shamima Ali's important contribution which was highlighted by Ms Ellsberg in the report.
The Report is an attempt to take stock of developments in East Timor and Melanesia since the 2008 AusAID Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) report on Violence against Women in the region.
It examines to what extent the recommendations that emerged from the 2008 assessment have been acted upon at the country and regional level.
The report finds great strides in some areas, such as:
- strengthening of NGOs and funding to combat violence against women;
- world-class research on the prevalence of violence against women;
- major victories in improving the laws relating to domestic violence; and
- the establishment of a number of centres to support victims of violence
But much remains to be done:
- legislative victories need to be implemented through further work with the police and judicial systems;
- support services reach too few women, especially in rural areas; and
- while important work has been done on violence prevention, many citizens in East Timor and Melanesia still consider violence against women a normal occurrence.
The report highlights the leadership of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre in engaging men and boys on violence against women. FWCC started conducting training courses for Male Advocates in 2000, and due to the training's success, it has spread throughout the region.
Fiji leads Melanesia in addressing violence against women primarily due to the efforts of groups such as the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, the Fiji Women's Rights Movement and the Regional Rights and the Research Team.
There is an enormous array of innovative programs being carried out in Fiji and the Pacific which should be of interest not only in the region, but also on a global level.
It is an important part of my role as Global Ambassador for Women and Girls to highlight these programs and promote them more widely.
Therefore it is my pleasure to formally launch the Violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor Report.